Acheive your endurance goals
Are you an endurance ‘beginner’, looking to complete your first 5km fun run? Or are you a seasoned endurance athlete looking to beat you iron man PB? Perhaps you’ve booked a holiday to Nepal, and are planning to hike up to ‘base camp’?
No matter what your goal is - when it comes to endurance sport, incorporating these training techniques into your fitness routine will help you achieve it!
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Believe it or not, HIIT training – practically the opposite of endurance training! – can help you achieve your long-distance walking, running and cycling goals. Why? HIIT improves your body’s fuel-burning efficiency, particularly of body fat, which is a major source of fuel for endurance sports. At a cellular level, HIIT increases the number and the functioning of energy-producing cells, called mitochondria, as well as the number of enzymes involved in energy production within muscle tissue. HIIT also increases the number of capillaries supplying fresh blood rich in oxygen and nutrients to working muscles, for energy production (1, 2)
HIIT workouts involve short ‘maximum effort’ exercise intervals, lasting anywhere from 10 seconds up to 5 minutes, followed by rest periods of shorter, longer or equivalent duration. Generally, the shorter the interval, the higher the intensity, and vice versa. If you are new to HIIT, start with rest intervals that are longer or equal duration to your work intervals, for example, a 1-minute flat or incline sprint on the bike or treadmill, followed by a 1-2-minute rest. For continuous improvement, gradually reduce your break times between work intervals, so that your muscles are burning and you feel well and truly out of breath by the time you finish.
Some exercise bikes and treadmills will have HIIT programs that you can follow. If you prefer to exercise in the great outdoors, you can download and listen to apps such as ‘interval timer – HIIT training’, which allow you to customize an interval program, and prompt you when to work and when to rest. Alternatively, if group fitness interests you, classes such as spin, body attack and GRIT follow HIIT principals, and are super-fun!
If you’re a practiced runner, swimmer or cyclist, or if you participate in other endurance sports, this will come as no surprise to you. Strength training is essential for a number of reasons, including increasing your exercise tolerance, perfecting your technique and form, coping with the stress on muscles and joints, and preventing overuse injuries.
There are certain muscle groups which, depending on your sport, will make a big difference to your endurance and performance. Core strength is universally important for protecting posture preventing back pain. Walkers, runners and cyclists will benefit mos
from strengthening their leg muscles and glutes, whereas swimmers will also need to focus on their upper body strength.
The way you incorporate strength training into your routine is important. Lifting lighter weights for higher repetitions, or bodyweight/functional training, will improve your strength, stability and movement efficiency, as well as keeping you lean and light – which is advantageous for improving endurance. In comparison, lifting heavy weights for short reps may be better suited for sprinters, where muscle size and power are preferred.
If you’d like to incorporate strength training into your routine, make sure your technique is correct, or you may do more harm than good! We strongly suggest speaking with a personal trainer, exercise physiologist or physiotherapist, who can create a program specific to your goals, and show you how to safely perform the exercises. Some good examples include lunges, squats, planks, push-ups, kettlebell swings and deadlifts. And if you’re into group fitness, classes such as Body Pump, CRX, and GRIT offer the prefect balance of light weight - high repetition and body weight workouts.
Train your brain
We’re huge fans of the TV show Survivor! If you’ve watched an episode, you may have seen that ‘look of steel’ on contestants’ faces during an endurance-style immunity challenge – a perfect blend of concentration and calm. If you can divert your attention towards your breathing, or towards anything other than the ‘burn’ of exercise, you will be able to push on longer and harder for sure. Yoga is a great place for practicing this – especially styles where you are required to hold a pose for long periods. Meditation can also teach you how to clear your mind and focus on breathing.